In a scene that has become way too common for comfort this season, CC Sabathia failed to protect the lead the offense gave him on Saturday. In a span of 4 batters and 16 pitches to start the bottom of the 6th, Sabathia gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk, turning a 2-0 Yankee lead into a 3-2 deficit from which they would not come back. Sabathia had allowed just 2 baserunners in the 5 previous innings, and his pitch count wasn't very high, but the decision to allow him to continue in that inning was questionable at best. He left a sinker up on the leadoff hit and the walk to the next batter was on 4 pitches, all either 4-seam fastballs or sinkers that missed. It was clear CC had lost his command, and with the go-ahead run stepping to the plate and the Yankees needing every win they can get it was probably the time to pull him.
If there's one pitcher in the rotation who you wouldn't expect to give up 4 HR in a game, it's Hiroki Kuroda. Yet that's just what happened on Friday night in what was easily Hirok's worst start of the season. It was the first time this season he's allowed more than 5 ER in a start, the second time in a row that he'd given up 9 or more hits, and the first time in over 57 IP that he'd given up even 1 homer let alone 4. His command of all his pitches was inconsistent and the Tampa hitters looked locked into him from the 1st inning on. It was not the kind of start the Yankees needed from their new ace as they try to cling to playoff hope.
(Happier (and healthier?) times. Courtesy of the AP)
While the rest of the lineup has been either ineffective or injured, Brett Gardner has joined Robbie Cano as one of the most consistent offensive presences this season and has been the second-most important member of the lineup behind Cano. He's been a fixture at the top of the batting order, getting on base at a good clip and hitting for more power than usual. He's also been struggling a bit recently after putting together 2 really hot months in May and June. Gardner has just a .632 OPS, fueled mainly by a sub-.300 OBP, this month after posting a .634 in July. That, and an increase in the number of off-days Joe has given him suggests Gardner might be hitting the physical wall with 30+ games remaining.
The good news: Derek Jeter is scheduled to make his return to the lineup tonight in Toronto. He went 1-3 with a single and an error in 7 innings at shortstop on Saturday, completing a 3-game rehab turn that saw him come through with no physical issues. He still hasn't played a full game at short, and hasn't played more than a few consecutive games, but the Yankees can't afford to wait as long as they probably wanted to with Jayson Nix now on the DL and the team playing without a backup infielder. Jeter's return allows the Yanks to move Eduardo Nunez back to the bench and back to that utility role for the time being.
The bad news: Preston Claiborne is once again the 25-man roster casualty needed to clear a spot for Jeter. Despite 3 scoreless appearances in 4.2 IP since coming back up, and despite Joba Chamberlain continuing to be the most unreliable reliever in the 'pen, the decision has been made to send Claiborne back down. It's a bizarro world call for sure. There's no value in keeping Joba on the roster anymore, not at the expense of better pitchers. But whatever, at least The Captain will be back on the field.